While the shift to virtual and hybrid events has improved meeting convenience and allowed for higher attendance, it's made measuring engagement harder than ever. Attendees are more likely to multitask during online meetings and may only be half paying attention, while also answering emails, texts or viewing other content online. This means that while attendance numbers might be up, engagement is not.
Luckily, metrics like registration and attendance rates that used to be the benchmarks of event success, while still interesting to look at, are no longer the only ways to determine if a meeting has met its goals. Planner should instead examine a range of metrics to see if attendees are actively engaged with the content, if the messaging resonated with the audience, and what follow-up steps to take to further engage attendees and improve content moving forward.
Below are some tips for improving data collection and ensuring high engagement throughout a virtual event, whether it be a large annual conference or a smaller corporate meeting.
Examine Engagement Times
How long are people staying at your event? Are attendees signing off before the conference is over? How many attendees are staying all the way through? It's important to take a deep dive into the engagement metrics and determine at which points during the day or during a particular session attendees are logging off and losing interest.
For example, you might find that sessions before 10 a.m. have lower viewership, or that attendance drops off after 3 p.m. Taking a closer look at the engagement metrics can help you fine-tune the agenda for your next meeting. It'll also tell you which sessions are the most/least popular and help with future content planning.
Actively Monitor Chat Conversations
Getting the chat going can be challenging. One way to break the ice and build a connection right from the start is to ask easy introduction questions. Invite attendees to share where they're tuning in from, or what they're hoping to get out of the session in the chat box. This can help get attendees in the mindset that it won't be a one-way presentation, and encourages them to share their thoughts, questions and observations throughout the session.
It's a good idea to have a dedicated team member monitor the chat. You'll want to take note of how many attendees are actively engaging in the chat box, as well as the number and types of questions coming in. At Livestorm, we consider an event to have a high engagement rate when one out of five participants asks a question.
In addition, we recommend using a platform that displays the question to all participants while you are answering them. This way, attendees know that you're taking time to answer questions and will be more likely to add their own.
Measure Poll Participation
How are your polls doing? You should be publishing polls throughout your event, as well as measuring how many people are answering them and which polls are getting the most votes. Make sure to match the polls with the content that is being shared by the presenter. For maximum engagement, we recommend launching one poll for every 15 minutes of presentation.
Here are some additional tips that can help boost engagement:
- Prepare a list of ice breakers in advance. Don't be shy with using ice breakers to kick off your online events. Instead of a simple hello, you can ask attendees to post an emoji that represents how they're feeling today or to share something that they learned from an earlier session. For internal meetings, you can leverage other types of conversation starters to lighten the mood and break the ice. For example, "if you could go on vacation right now, where would you go?" or "If you could eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?" These ice breakers are guaranteed to make your meetings more fun and give everyone the opportunity to feel involved in the discussion. Don't hesitate to take some time to react to the answers posted in the chat. We've noticed that when participants are posting in the chat at the beginning of the event, they are much more likely to attend the gathering for longer.
- Make sure your event platform is well-organized and easy to navigate. We recommend choosing a platform that gathers the questions and polls in a specific tab that attendees can easily find, and planners can quickly sort through. Ideally, your platform should also be able to order the questions based on the number of upvotes. That way, the organizers will know which questions from the audience to answer first, based on attendee interest. The data should be easy to locate and analyze post-event.
- Keep the conversation going. After you ask a question or share a poll, make sure to invite participants to comment on the results. Are they surprised? Why or why not, and what were they expecting? To make the presentation even more interactive, you can also ask participants to share what topic they'd prefer you spend most time on during the event. Do they find a topic more important and interesting than another? Simply ask them and adapt the presentation accordingly.
Virtual event planners can no longer rely on attendance as the main metric for success. Lower costs and a lack of travel mean you're likely to get more participants than in years past. But is your audience actually engaged and actively participating, or are they distracted, paying attention to other items and logging off early? Capturing a wide range of engagement metrics and taking the time to closely examine the results is key to creating a more mature event strategy that is sure to keep attendees engaged throughout.
Marie Hillion is head of marketing for Livestorm, an all-in-one virtual event platform. Livestorm is a browser-based platform that can be used for on-demand, live or pre-recorded events.